Global Forum makes strides toward tax transparency

The timely and effective implementation of the automatic exchange of tax information was a key theme during the Oct. 29-30 meeting of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes held in Bridgetown, Barbados. 

The meeting, which brought together delegates from the Global Forum’s 128 member jurisdictions, as well as representatives of international organizations, concluded that a major increase in tax transparency had been achieved since last year when more than 90 members of the Global Forum committed to automatically exchange information, beginning in 2017 or 2018. 

All major financial centers are now part of the efforts to enhance international tax cooperation, after Panama and the Cook Islands committed to the initiative, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said, bringing the total number of participating countries to 96. 

With financial information set to be collected from Jan. 1, 2016, in around 50 jurisdictions, governments around the world are in the process of changing their domestic laws to ensure financial institutions report information on financial assets held for non-residents. 

The meeting marked the signing of the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, which is one of the mechanisms for automatic exchange of tax information, by 13 jurisdictions: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bulgaria, Cook Islands, Grenada, Japan, Marshall Islands, Niue, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten and Samoa. 

A total of 74 jurisdictions have signed the multilateral agreement. 

“The work of the Global Forum is key for Barbados and the Caribbean region,” said Donville Inniss, Barbados’s Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, and vice chair of the Global Forum Steering Group. “Barbados was proud to host the 8th Global Forum meeting, which is the kickoff to a new era of automatic exchange of information and tax compliance.” 

The Global Forum has already established a real-time monitoring process to keep track of the delivery of the commitments made and to identify areas where support is needed, as well as started to assess the confidentiality standards and data safeguards in all the committed jurisdictions. The Global Forum will continue work in the areas of monitoring, implementation assistance, and reviews. It will support developing countries – in cooperation with the World Bank Group and other international organizations – so they also receive the benefits the move to automatic exchange offers, the OECD said. As a reflection of the growing interest of developing countries to participate fully in the benefits of enhanced tax transparency, Ghana also announced its intention to engage in automatic exchange of information starting in 2018. 

Meanwhile, the standard of exchange of information on request continues to be modified. The Global Forum adopted changes in the standard to include a requirement for beneficial ownership for all legal entities for its new round of reviews scheduled to be launched in 2016. 

Barbados Minister Donville Inniss at last year
Barbados Minister Donville Inniss at last year’s Global Tax Conference in Berlin.